Since the 2017-2018 school year, Seneca Washington has cultivated an impactful relationship with Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary (pK-5th) in Seattle’s Othello neighborhood. As part of Seneca’s expanding partnership with Seattle Public Schools, a Student Support Counselor was placed at the school in Fall of 2017. Starting in the Fall of 2019, Seneca proudly expanded MLK Jr.’s partnership to include a full-time Unconditional Education Coach.
With an enrollment of about 350 students, MLK Jr. takes seriously it’s responsibility to provide every student with an excellent, holistic education. Martin Luther King Jr. is known a Seattle Public School’s most diverse student body, with students coming from over 20 unique languages and cultures. Over 98% of MLK Jr.’s students are students of color and about 40% are English Language Learners. Martin Luther King Jr. is a school where joy is always in the air, families and community members are active and engaged, and staff care deeply about the students they serve.
Seneca’s partnership with MLK Jr. Elementary began with a full-time Student Support Counselor focused on carrying out the reset procedure- helping students who are experiencing behavioral challenges, in the moment, to regulate emotions, reflect, restore relationships, and reintegrate into classrooms. With support from Seneca staff, these Tier II and Tier III behaviors become less frequent and shorter in duration. The reduction in reactive interventions at MLK Jr. provided a powerful opportunity for Seneca- to shift the focus of the partnership to a proactive PBIS-informed approaches (check-in/check-outs, reward systems, behavior plans, etc.) for individual students.
As the partnership with MLK Jr. continued to grow, Seneca staff became more integral resources in systems-wide changes at the classroom and school-wide level. This shift resulted in Seneca placing MLK Jr.’s first Unconditional Education Coach at the school in August 2019. Martin Luther King Jr.’s UE Coach works in-step with the principal to lead multi-disciplinary, multi-agency teams to identify key areas of growth within the school. In a few short months, the UE Coach has made incredible progress in implementing core parts of the Unconditional Education model; she’s kick-started the school’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support team, coordinated MLK Jr.’s PBIS implementation, established a Coordination of Services Team referral system, and began coaching individual staff members. Seneca’s partnership with MLK Jr. Elementary is a powerful example of the impact of multi-year partnerships. Through building trust, integrating into MLK’s school community, and developing closely aligned values, Seneca’s partnership continues to increase the achievement of MLK Jr. students by building a climate and culture that is engaging and responsive to all.
Name: Jeraniqua Martin
Position: Unconditional Education Coach
What led you to your current position?
When I saw the Unconditional Education Coach position listed, I was really intrigued with the focus on culture and climate and the Unconditional Education model. I have worked in education for at least 8 years and in my 8 years of experiences, I have yet to come across a model similar to Unconditional Education that truly works for all students. Additionally, I wanted to be apart of an organization that believes in and supports every child.
I love traveling and have traveled to 10+ countries.
What does your average day look like?
Typically, I start my day off by greeting students at the front gate with the 6th grade Assistant Principal. From there, I’m checking emails, checking in with students, attending meetings on various topics, supporting during lunch and spending intentional time implementing the Student Support Progress Team (SSPT) with the support of the 6th grade Counselor and 6th grade School Psychologist, 6th grade Assistant Principal and our School Partnership Director.
Why do you do this work?
I do this work because I care about the current state of education, I care about students and families and I also believe every child has the potential to succeed when giving the right support and structure.
I’m writing this week to introduce Ánimo Legacy Charter Middle School, one of Seneca’s newest school partners and one of our very first in Los Angeles! Ánimo Legacy is one of twenty Green Dot schools in LA and is located in the south LA community of West Athens, serving approximately 1,200 students in 6th through 8th grade. Legacy is hosted on the campus of Los Angeles Unified’s Henry Clay Middle School, which Green Dot assumed control of in 2011 through LAUSD’s Public School Choice initiative, where operators can apply to run one or more of the city’s most persistently low-performing schools. Clay was split into two smaller campuses—Ánimo Western Charter Middle School and Ánimo Phillis Wheatley—before being unified this school year as Ánimo Legacy.
Legacy’s partnership with Seneca began when Green Dot toured some of our Bay Area programs back in January of this year. During those tours, Green Dot became especially interested in Seneca’s culture and climate partnerships and the role of the UE Coach. Through a grant from LAUSD’s SELPA, we were able to place a UE Coach at Legacy this school year, Jeraniqua Martin, whose focus is to help develop the new school’s systems for coordination of services and school culture and climate improvements. In addition to Jeraniqua’s role, the grant also funds a series of trainings for Green Dot’s network-wide team of twenty-five school psychologists (led by our very own Sonya Benavides) on best practices for COST and MTSS implementation.
At Ánimo Legacy, our partnership this year has focused on building on the school’s existing strengths and systems of support. Among its many strengths, Legacy’s team has built incredibly strong connections with families and the community, with an admin team that strongly prioritizes family involvement in their students’ education. Many teachers have also been with their respective schools since their founding in 2011, which resulted in strong—but different—cultures having developed on each campus. These differences in school cultures have provided something of a challenge as the schools merged, as staff (and families) across both schools had grown accustomed to their own norms, practices, and ways of being. To help support this transition, our work has focused on two priority areas this year. First, Jeraniqua is participating on Legacy’s School Culture Team, whose aim is to build unity and cohesion among staff, students, and families. Second, Jeraniqua is leading Legacy’s new Student Support and Progress Team (SSPT)—our local version of COST—to help develop collaborative systems of support for students, staff, and teachers.
Even as these structures continue to take shape, Jeraniqua has wasted no time building relationships across the Legacy community. Only two months into the school year, she has already built quite a following on campus—whether it’s students reaching out in need of someone to talk to, a teacher asking for support with a student or intervention, or a member of the School Culture Team asking for advice about Niqua’s experience leading PBIS, SART, or MTSS initiatives at her previous schools. We are only excited to find more ways to roll these supports out campus-wide as the year continues!
Name: Terence Adams
Position: I’m currently a Student Support Assistant at Verde K-8 with the All In program.
What led you to your current position? The need and responsibility to make a difference in my community is what drove me to this position. I recognized the need for assistance in the education field and decided that this could be a starting point for me making a difference in the community that I am from.
Fun Fact/Quote? A fun fact about me is that I enjoy cooking and others company. I tend to find the humor in every situation that occurs in my life.
What does your average day look like? My average day in my new role at Verde looks like providing tier 1 services to the school and working on school climate and culture through student participation and safety during unstructured times within their schedule.
Why do you do this work? I do this work to help the misunderstood become understood.
Yes, it’s about race.
Inequities in the education system continue to spark robust conversation among all stakeholders involved, which often times lead to a divided perspective. Considering the idea that basic education directly impacts future outcomes, inequities in our school systems is a topic that can’t be avoided nor neglected. Race and socioeconomic status continue to be the primary drivers of who gains access to resources, high quality education, and state of the art facilities, leading segregated school environments, and a huge disproportionality in academic performance.
Being an educator and parent of a Black son, I’ve found myself stressed out about things too mundane to explain, but too critical to simply ignore, which is why THIS article, written by a parent in the middle of a potential OUSD merger of two extremely different school communities resonated with me. Take a look, and after reading the article I challenge you to have a discussion with one or two others, asking:
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so drop a line in the comments below!
There is an age-old question clinicians hear all the time – “What do you DO with the kids in your office?” A clinician typically takes a gulp and wonders…what AM I doing? PLAYING?!?!?
Over the years, I have decidedly used play therapy as the primary model of working with kids in therapy. Play therapy is tricky to explain, since it can look a lot like simple play. A client and a therapist can be deep in the throes of a storyline that involves different races of dinosaurs battling each other to the death, spies who turn out to be counterspies (who turn out to be counterspies), and babies who require care but are also very annoying. Or a client can play Uno for several weeks, always changing the rules so that they win at the very end after a long, drawn out game. Or a client tells lie after lie, spills toys carelessly, and asks to open every drawer in the therapy office, saying they will never come back for therapy. Some of this looks like fun, boisterous play and some can be more coy and mischievous acts.
In play therapy, it doesn’t matter so much what the actions may be. We are playing. What makes it a therapeutic intervention is how the clinician responds to the client and how the space and time is held intentionally. I found a straightforward infograph that highlights what the difference is between play therapy and play. I use this often, in supervisions and as a reminder to myself.
The use of play therapy is based on the belief that the child is processing things through play. The idea is that play is never without important meaning, nor is any play by chance or without aim. Children use play to communicate, think through things, experience new situations, and inform their internal working models – the way they understand the world around them and their place in that world. The second important aspect of play therapy is the adult relationship. The experience of having an adult who has suspended judgement, is not moralizing or trying to formally teach, while remaining curious to allow the child to figure things out, control the story, or try different personas is a special interaction in therapy. If both pieces- free play and a holding adult relationship- are present, play therapy presents limitless ways for kids to experience disconfirming stances. “Disconfirming stances” are ways that we can support someone to have a new experience of themselves and the world, a chance to shift their internal working model if it’s become stuck or has resulted in unhealthy beliefs and behaviors. These disconfirming stances can be broad – like one client who witnessed severe violence in his family and arrived at the conclusion through play that love does not require you to destroy yourself to prove your love- or it can be very specific like the client who wanted to see different ways of playing games to make and keep friends.
Play therapy is a fantasy place, where adults don’t have to push an overt agenda, hold to a list of action steps, or make sure to check for understanding from the child. It takes a lot of intention to not take the invitation to focus on how to correct or change a child’s behavior especially with the emphasis on teaching more observable behaviors like classic coping skills. But the processing of the underlying needs of problematic behaviors is an important aspect of treatment that needs to be addressed for lasting health and strength. Play therapy offers a space where these underlying needs (questions about what happened to them, what their self-identity is, what the rules of relationships are) can be addressed to support shifts in internal working models that inform our behaviors over time. This is, in essence, the process of changing from within.
In our school partnerships we have an opportunity to use multi-tiered supports as well as multi-leveled clinical interventions to address entrenched problematic behaviors. In a world that values the effectiveness of CBT and skills based programs, please don’t forget to consider play therapy as an effective intervention that can give a new avenue for our students and clients to play with the prospect of change amidst limitless possibilities.
Name: Kaycee Hasan
Your Position: Clinical Intervention Specialist or Classroom Therapist at Prescott Elementary
What led you to your current position? My current position found me. I knew that I wanted to return to school based programs, but I was really struggling with my own self deprecating thoughts around being a good therapist. Because of this, I never actively sought out positions at any schools after obtaining my MSW. Fate intervened and I began conversations with the SOAPS Program Director, Adeya Byrd. With each conversation, I was becoming more excited and more ready to face my own fears. I realized and knew that my job needed to align with my personal interests and passion. I always enjoyed working in this profession, but I love it more, being in the schools.
Fun Fact/Quote? “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world” -Harriet Tubman.
What does your average day look like? Does an average day exist? Each day, I try to start the day with the Special Day Classroom during their check in. This is an activity where we create a space for the children to say how they are feeling and come up with daily goals for themselves. After the morning check in, I jump into my first therapy session of the day which usually goes until recess. I typically spend recess with the children, observing them within the general population of youth, and making mental notes of social issues that may be coming up for the kids. I typically spend time supporting the special day class after the first recess as needed, or contacting parents as needed. I end my day with a final therapy session with a youth and attend check out with the special day class before walking them all to the bus.
Why do you do this work? I do this work because there is a part of me that can relate to the experiences that some of our children present and identify with. I fill the most fulfilled when I am providing support to a child and assisting them in working through their most difficult experiences, or even if they just need to open up to me a bit. This work is bigger than me and it is more about supporting children to develop into emotionally healthy beings. Every seed I plant today, has the potential to grow tomorrow.
This year our program rolled out Guidelines for Data Collection and Sharing. We are going to be addressing this topic in strands, in supervisions, and in team meetings. While the development of strategies approaches and tools are important, so to is the WHY.
We’ve all been on school campuses that are under-resourced and over-extended. It can be difficult to prioritize your most valuable, your time. When every need feels urgent, how do you know where and when to lean in? How do you say no when asked to support “just one more student, they really need it”? How do you advocate for your student to decrease the amount of support they receive when their teacher feels they still struggle so much? It is through the collection and sharing of data that we are able to prioritize our time in order to provide the most high-leverage interventions. This is also how we can highlight the successes of our students who may continue to struggle.
There was a meaningful special education case law that passed in 2017 the Endrew F. vs Douglas County School District case. This case changed districts’ obligation from ensuring students with disabilities achieved some educational benefit to requiring that they make meaningful progress. The United States Department of Education wrote this Q & A on the Endrew F. case. They are quoted as follows:
“SEAs should review policies, procedures, and practices to provide support and appropriate guidance to school districts and IEP Teams to ensure that IEP goals are appropriately ambitious and that all children have the opportunity to meet challenging objectives. States can help ensure that every child with a disability has an IEP that enables the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum and is appropriately ambitious in light of the child’s circumstances.21 While many States and school districts are already meeting the standard established in Endrew F., this is an opportunity to work together to ensure that we are holding all children with disabilities to high standards and providing access to challenging academic content and achievement standards.”
In alignment with the findings in this case, All In is on the forefront of developing and implementing best practices for data collection and sharing.
Name: Diana Au
Position: Speech-Language Therapist and Assistive Technology Specialist
What led you to your current position? Growing up in a multilingual household and spending hours every week at the library fostered my love for language. I always thought I’d grow up to be a doctor, but when I got to college, I learned about speech-language pathology and realized it was exactly what I wanted to do. It combined my love for language and my desire to work with kids. I first started at Seneca as a contractor and knew immediately I wanted to join this amazing team, which I was able to do after a couple years. Recently, I graduated with my masters in special education with a focus on assistive technology so now I get to support language from multiple aspects, and I’m really excited about that!
Fun Fact/Quote: I was born and raised in Hawai’i, and recently started taking hula classes again. It feels good to be going back to my roots.
What does your average day look like? My day begins bright and early at 5:15 and with a commute. Once I’m at my school site, I hit the ground running from session to session and to IEP meetings and collaboration meetings. Some days, I have to commute between multiple sites so my days always feel action packed. My favorite part of the day is working with and connecting with incredible little humans who have such unique personalities.
Why do you do this work? Communication and language are human rights. As a daughter of refugees, I know firsthand the consequences of the lack of language. I want to do my part to ensure everyone has access to this right, and I want to encourage all my students to continue speaking their native language because it’s such a beautiful thing to be able to speak multiple languages!
Most of us, at some point during our childhoods, have been asked the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Most of the kids we work with have probably heard this question, too – probably more than once. And all of us just know implicitly that the expected answer to this question is career. Career role is a defining factor in establishing identity in our society. Even as adults, we ask similar questions. “What do you do?” is almost inevitable in the process of getting to know someone new. The answer, again, is implicitly understood to refer to your career.
Yet in today’s world, it’s increasingly unlikely that any individual will remain in the same career role throughout their life. This trend will likely continue as our young clients grow up and enter the workforce, and it has certainly been true of my own career journey that brought me to Seneca.
Throughout my adolescent and adult life, one aspect of my career journey has remained the same: I have always enjoyed working with children. When I was a child, this goal would have translated to a single, recognizable career identity, likely "A Teacher" or perhaps "A Nurse.” It was only as an adult that I discovered the many different avenues one can take to working with children – and since then I have tried on several of them.
My first job, for instance, was working for a children's play place (similar to the more recognizable icon of Chuck E. Cheese's.) I wasn’t a teacher, and I wasn’t a nurse, but I was working with kids. Yet even at the time I knew that this was a temporary role, a “stepping stone” so to speak. Looking back, I would say that my career journey really began with the two jobs I held in college, working in research labs – first studying language and cognition, and subsequently attachment. Instead of supervising children, I was studying them – a new role, with new responsibilities, and a much broader range of required skills.
Since then, I have been a special education aide, earned a Master’s in Fine Arts, taught classes on social justice & creative writing through an arts and education non-profit, set up side-gigs making art, transcribing audio, and substitute teaching, and most recently interned at my first MFT site placement with East Bay Agency for Children. Now here I am, working as a clinical intern with Seneca’s All-In program, and in May I will finish my master’s program and begin working towards licensure as a marriage and family therapist.
In some ways, I see MFT licensure as a “finish line,” establishing the career path that – at least as of now – I expect to follow long-term. Yet I still struggle sometimes with the questions “What do you do?” and “What do you want to be?” At twenty-nine years old, I have already “been” many things. Each of these roles has prompted me to strengthen new skills, tackle new problems, and take on new perspectives – contributing far more, in my opinion, to my sense of who I am than any particular job title. I try to keep this in mind when working with my clients, who also cannot be defined by any one role or aspect of their identities. And if anyone asks “What do you do?” Well, I listen, learn, try my best to be of service. “What do you want to be?” Empathetic, kind, and perhaps most importantly, flexible enough that, no matter what role I find myself in, I can continue to grow as an individual.
All-In! Partnership Team